November 2012

SEIU Members Stand Up for Free Speech During “Banned Books Week”

Bryan Jones

Bryan Jones

James McClanahan

James McClanahan

SEIU member and librarian Bryan Jones produced Tennessee’s entry for the American Library Association’s “50 State Salute to Banned Books” while Teen Program Coordinator and SEIU member James McClanahan had an entry in the TLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee contest.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the value of free and open access to information.

Congratulations to Bryan, James, and the other SEIU members working at the Nashville Public Library for their advocacy of free speech.

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VICTORY! CNA Reinstated with Backpay at Methodist Medical Center!

As is the case in many workplaces, clocking a co-worker in or out is a serious offense. It was at Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge when a supervisor accused a CNA of clocking out her co-worker. Both CNA’s were terminated and the Union filed a grievance. An independent arbitrator heard all the testimony and evidence and in the end ruled that the Hospital did “not satisfy its burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence.” Methodist Medical Center was ordered “to reinstate the Grievant to her former job without loss of seniority and to make her whole all time and benefits lost as a result of her termination.”

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Member Spotlight: Vanessa Robertson

Vanessa Robertson: Labor & Delivery Technician @ Nashville General Hospital.

Vanessa Robertson: Labor & Delivery Technician @ Nashville General Hospital.

When Vanessa Robertson reports to work every day at Metro General Hospital in Nashville, she isn’t just showing up so she can collect a paycheck. “A job is somewhere you show up every day so that you can have money to pay your bills,” Vanessa says. “This is more than just a job to me. I see it as my ministry. After all, Jesus took care of the sick and the poor and I can do a lot worse than to follow His example.”

Vanessa is a labor and delivery technician at Nashville’s safety net hospital, Metro General at Meharry. She assists doctors and nurses with OB/GYN patients and helps to bring new life into the world every day. It’s this sense of compassion and hope that led Vanessa to SEIU Local 205. She joined the union back in 1994 when she came to General and even though she’s a working mom, she still finds the time to be active in the Union. Vanessa has served as a shop steward since 2000 and has been on the union’s Bargaining Committee since 2003. “I want to be part of an organization that respects the voices of employees and helps them to get the dignity, respect, and justice they deserve at work,” Vanessa says.

As budgets in Washington and here in Tennessee continue to shrink, Vanessa often worries about what will happen to General, which relies heavily on subsidies—but not just because it will affect her own life. “We are so important to the community and we help so many people who can’t afford health insurance and treatment—I pray that Nashville General can weather this storm. In the meantime, I will continue to help my patients and my co-workers to the best of my God-given abilities by participating in my Union.”

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VICTORY! Chattanooga I.T. Employee Ordered Back to Work!

When an employee of Chattanooga’s Information Services Department accidentally put an encrypted file with city computer passwords into a “Dropbox” account that he and one of the city’s vendors used to exchange information on a project they were working on, the employee was fired. But when the Union filed a grievance, a judge found that the city’s computer security was not compromised in any way, that the employee made an honest mistake which he felt remorse about, and that his use of a Dropbox was a fairly common industry practice that even the department’s director had used. ruled that the city’s decision to terminate the worker was unjust and that the action was “too harsh and unreasonable.” The employee was ordered back to work with back pay, seniority rights, and full benefits.

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VICTORY! Judge Orders Chattanooga City Employee Back to Work

An administrative law judge ruled that the city’s decision to terminate an 18-year employee of the City Court Clerk’s office was unjust and that the action was based on personal, not professional reasons. The employee was ordered back to work with back pay in an order rendered by administrative judge Marion Wall.

According to documents related to the case, Lillian Smith, a Court Technician, was terminated in August 2009 as the result of an audit conducted by her superior, Jan Turner, who now serves as the Interim Court Clerk for the City of Chattanooga. Smith and Turner both admitted that they have never gotten along as co-workers and that tension escalated when Turner decided to do an audit of her employees’ leave time. That audit – which would normally be done by the city’s audit divistion – was done by Turner herself and her findings indicated that Smith had made errors in her recordkeeping. Smith, who had no time to prepare for her disciplinary hearing or to analyze the errors Turner found, was unable to defend herself in the hearing and was terminated.

However, in a careful review of the alleged errors in Smith’s recordkeeping, it was discovered that Turner had overstated the number of errors. Furthermore, it was discovered that other employees were allowed to correct their recordkeeping errors during this audit, but that Smith was not given that opportunity. According to judge Wall’s order, “it seems entirely possible that Ms. Turner was out to get Ms. Smith and used the compensatory time records to do it”. As a result, the city’s decision to terminate Smith was set aside as Wall revealed that “this action was based on personal and not professional reasons.”

“Justice was served for Lillian Smith, but it is unfortunate that it took a court order to get the Administration’s attention on this,” said Doug Collier, President of the Service Employees International Union, Local 205. Local 205 represented Ms. Smith in her case. “When the Mayor refuses to work with employees or labor organizations to address issues like this, it forces employees to take the city to court. It’s unfortunate that the Administration chooses this path instead of trying to sit down and work these issues out without costing taxpayers money.”

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